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Scientific name: Carnivora


This lynx is one of about 250 species of carnivores alive today.

This lynx is one of about 250 species of carnivores alive today.

Photo © Shutterstock / Adrian T Jones.

Carnivores (Carnivora) are a group of mammals that consists of about 250 species. Carnivores include dogs, wolves, foxes, coyotes, bears, racoons, mustelids, sea lions, fur seals, civits, hyenas, aardwolves, wolverines and cats.

Carnivores are well-suited to a hunting lifestyle. Most members of the Carnivora are swift runners, they posess sharp teeth, superb eyesight, a well-developed sense of smell, sharp claws, and a set of specialized teeth known as carnassials. Carnassials consist of two pairs of teeth: an upper premolar and lower molar on each side of the mouth that are sharpened in such a way that they are superb for cutting through flesh. Carnassials are well-developed in cats and dogs. Bears have carnassials as well but they are not as refined as those of cats and dogs.

Not all members of the Carnivora are exclusively meat-eaters. Foxes, coyotes and bears supplement their meat intake with plant material. Giant pandas eat no meat at all and survive on a diet that consists exclusively of plants. Meat-eating carnivores catch animal prey of various sizes including insects, invertebrates and vertebrates. Carrion feeders such as the hyena occasionally feed on prey killed by other animals. Foxes and coyotes also feed on carrion from time to time.

Carnivores first appeared during the Cenozoic, after the decline of the dinosaurs. The earliest carnivores were weasel-like creatures. During the Palaeocene, the Carnivora diverged into two separate groups—a cat-like lineage and a dog-like lineage. The cat-like lineage gave rise to modern cats, civets, mongooses, and hyaenas. The dog-like lineage gave rise to modern dogs, bears, seals, sea lions, walruses, racoons, weasels, otters, badgers and wolverines.


Carnivores are a group of mammals that is divided into about 11 subgroups. Those subgroups include canids, cats, mongooses, hyenas and aardwolves, mustelids, raccoons, and their relatives, bears, and civets.

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